OCD With Appearance

Discussion in 'Mental Health Disorders' started by #18, Nov 28, 2011.

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  1. #18

    #18 Well-Known Member

    I remember I'd take sometimes up to four hours in the bathroom on personal hygiene. I know now it wasn't normal. I just wonder what my underlining problem is. It's normal to care about your appearance I think but you can go too far with it as well.

    What it was that I thought the longer I took the better I'd look.

    Can anyone relate?
  2. Silverchair

    Silverchair Member

    Hi Ivy. I have OCD and believe me when I say that this disorder can present in a variety of ways. When we are talking about appearance it can be tricky though. You have to consider that taking pride in your appearance to a certain degree is very healthy and is a sign of great self-esteem and mental health. Just to clarify, your name is Zachary, so I take it you are male? I know that it is sort of a "female" thing to take so long to get ready, but males do it too sometimes, and that is not abnormal at all. Whether you have OCD or not, 4 hours is a little extreme to spend on personal hygiene IF it happens very often. In my case, if I am getting ready to go to a special event or something like that, it can take many hours to get perfectly groomed and ready. For a normal daily routine, I would think that anything over 2 hours is a bit much (shower included). I guess it sort of makes sense to think that the longer you take, the better you look but you get to a certain point where realistically, you aren't going to look much different if you spend more time on your appearance.

    I can't say for sure what your "underlying" problem is, only you can figure that out. My best guess would be self-esteem issues that you either formed yourself, or formed from negative reactions from family or peers growing up. As far as you thinking it is OCD related, well, I can help try to help you figure that out if you would like. Do you feel out of control when you are grooming...like you find it hard to stop? Do you feel anxiety if you don't get to spend this amount of time grooming? Does the grooming give you a sense of relief while you are doing it, only for the anxiety to come back soon after? Is your appearance something that occupies your mind for much of your waking hours? If you answer yes to any of these, then you may indeed have symptoms of OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder that involves obsessions and/or compulsions. People often have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations, or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). A lot of times, the individual will actually do the compulsions to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, and find it only provides temporary relief. Not performing the compulsions or rituals can cause a lot of anxiety. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

    In my OCD, I have what I call general obsessions, things that are on my mind on a daily basis BUT I can live with them and they don't greatly impair my functioning...such as worrying about my house burning down, getting a serious illness, etc. I do a few daily things to combat these worries (checking the stove and curling iron several times) and although they don't make me feel 100 percent better, they make me feel calm enough that I can continue to go about my day. Then I have what I call big obsessions. These are very specific phobias that may come up all of a sudden and cause me great distress. I carry out many compulsions to combat the anxiety and they do no offer much relief at all, and my life is greatly impacted by the worry and it takes up a lot of my time doing the compulsions. My biggest of phobias have been about pregnancy (worrying about it even though I have no reason to, taking multiple pregnancy tests, distancing myself from sexuality, etc.) and about my weight. I had an eating disorder a few years ago. It wasn't just a typical eating disorder because it was a part of my OCD. I became obsessed about weight and would try to make myself throw up, I would starve, count calories, etc. and I would worry about it night and day. These big obsessions of mine can also disappear suddenly or they can reappear. It is very unpredictable. All I can really say is that I have had this problem since I was about 8 years old and in some ways, it has gotten worse as I have gotten older (i am 23). I experience a great deal of anxiety on a daily basis and it really holds me back from living the kind of life I would like to live. If you have OCD, I really believe that you would have suspected it by now and I doubt that your appearance issues have been the only theme you would have experienced.

    To answer your question, I can relate to you somewhat. Apart from my OCD, I always struggled with my appearance. I grew up in a very judgmental family who heavily focused on weight and looking perfect overall. This can be poison to a young child because it set me up to have low self-esteem for most of my life, especially in my teen years. Some of this has gotten better for me, partly because I reached a weight I could live with and have gotten more savvy at doing my hair and makeup to make me feel the most confident. But also, I have experienced some physical illnesses in the past few years that have made me more grateful for what I have and to not take any of it for granted. Now, will I ever get to the point where I feel beautiful? Probably not. It would be awesome to have that much self-confidence though but I just don't know if that will happen for me. I DO however feel more comfortable in my skin than I used to and I have a lot of soul searching, therapy, and distance from my family to thank for that change. I hope that some of this helps you. If you have any more questions or need to talk, feel free.
  3. #18

    #18 Well-Known Member

    Hi Silverchair, thank you for your reply. I do believe I have OCD. Whenever I go out in public I worry about how I look constantly and if I catch someone looking at me I immediately believe they're judging my appearance and thinking I'm ugly. It's a vicious cycle every time I go somewhere.

    I'm not nearly as bad as I was in the past with taking time in the bathroom. It did used to take me nearly four hours to get to where I felt comfortable in my appearance. But now I take about an hour to completely get ready. I'm not sure what brought it all on at that time. I've always been self conscious about my appearance though. I've had weight problems in the past and do now actually. I used to work out ALL the time to keep myself at a stable weight. But I got lazy and put on a few lbs. I've been wanting to exercise again to feel good about myself but I feel like I don't nearly have as much energy as I used to.

    I believe my OCD with my appearance stems from people who put me down in the past. I'm generally a sensitive person and can really take things to heart.

    Back to my weight problem, I actually made myself throw up before too if I felt I ate too much. It didn't last long though and I never had symptoms of anorexia. When I worked out all the time and got really skinny my folks thought I was though.

    I have a psychiatrist appointment this January, I'm hoping I can have the time to open up about all of this to her.

    I do have self esteem issues, horribly so. I'm not sure what to do to increase my confidence other than working out again.

    I would like therepy again but I had a bad experience with my last one.

    I appreciate your reply. I feel like I want to make a big change for 2012 and get myself out of the rut I've been in and reading your reply and story has helped, thank you.
  4. Silverchair

    Silverchair Member

    I certainly wish you the best of luck with your new changes. I think it would be good for you to talk to a therapist. They are not all created equal and it takes a bit of shopping around sometimes to find a fit for you. If you are going to an actual psychiatrist, beware that medication may be pushed on you, after all, that is why they wanted to be a psychiatrist instead of a regular psychologist: so they can prescribe medicine. If this happens to you, think not twice, but many times before you take it. I would say from the start that you suspect you may have OCD so that treatment can be geared in that direction. Even if you don't have OCD, self-esteem issues can DEFINITELY come from negativity you have received in the past. Noone wants to be put down and when you receive it from an early age, it is something that just sticks with you. I think I said this already but I will say it again. My self-esteem got much better when I got away from my family because they were the original source of my issues. If people are going to make you feel bad about yourself, why waste time being around them? Surround yourself with people who love you and wouldn't say hurtful things to you.

    Self-esteem comes from the inside out, take it from me, you can do whatever you want to your body and you may still never be content with it. You have to gain some acceptance of yourself and not put so much emphasis on your appearance. That is much easier said than done but it is something you can always work on. It is a lifelong lesson that I am still learning.
  5. #18

    #18 Well-Known Member

    Thanks Silverchair, I appreciate your advice. I know I shouldn't put so much emphasis on my appearance but it's so hard at times. I find myself always wanting to look better. It could stem from the large amount of negativity I had thrown at me in the past. I'm eager to meet with this new psychiatrist this January. I've been involved with a lot of negative people. I always seemed to end up being around users and it hurt my self esteem as I believed they only pretended to care for me so they could get things from me. I think it's possible to feel better and that I can pull myself out of this mess. It's hard at times but I still have hope and it's true, even when I was really skinny I still was unhappy with myself. Self esteem really does come from the inside out, you're right.

    Thanks again, #18.
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